Remembering Huey P. Newton’s Love for Freedom

The co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would've turned 69 today.

By Thoai Lu Feb 17, 2011

Today marks what would have been Huey P. Newton’s 69th birthday. While most know Newton for his leadership as co-founder of the Black Panther Party, comparatively fewer know that Newton went on to earn a Ph.D. in social philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1980. He also authored several books and articles, including the memoir Revolutionary Suicide

Newton’s start in political organizing kicked off at Merritt College in Oakland, CA. He joined the Afro-American Association and began organizing with future Black Panther Party co-founder with Bobby Seale.

Newton’s early adolescence, however, was marked by volatility. He grew up poor in West Oakland, and ultimately had to teach himself how to read. 

Like many other young black men who were — and continue to be — cops in Oakland, Newton’s desire to see a safer community led him to create Panther programs like Free Breakfast for Children Program and the Oakland Community School. Former Oakland County Supervisor remembered, "Huey could take street-gang types and give them a social consciousness."

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The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley. Jeffrey Blankfort Photography

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